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Philippines passes law on enforced disappearances

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December 21, 2012 11:02 PM EST | AP

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MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has signed a law imposing up to life imprisonment for state agents convicted of being involved in enforced disappearances, the first major human rights legislation under his nearly 3-year-old government.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda says Aquino signed the law late Friday, two months after it was passed by Congress.

The human rights group Karapatan says more than 1,000 political activists and suspected supporters have disappeared since the 1972-1986 Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, including more than 200 under Aquino's predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It has documented 12 cases of enforced disappearance under Aquino.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says the new law is the first to criminalize enforced disappearances in Asia and challenged Aquino to "move quickly to enforce" it.